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Submitted by John Conte on Friday, August 24, 2018 at 2:17 PM

John Conte
Friday, August 24, 2018

Before we even begin previewing the 2018 Travers Stakes why don’t we get one thing out of the way first.

For all my experience. For all my years at the New York Post and Daily Racing Form. For all my years as a multiple Major National Handicapping Contest Winner. For all the accolades I have received, such as an Eclipse Award as Handicapper of the Year and as a featured star of the Esquire TV Show “Horseplayer.” I have never lost track of one thing, the game is about CASHING THE BEST VALUE BETS.

And when it comes to the opportunity to do so, nothing comes close to the “Mid-Summer Derby,” AKA, the Grade 1 Travers Stakes.

All you need do is look at the averaged payoffs the last 10 years and compare them to this year’s representative payoffs for the entire 2018 Saratoga Meet so far. Just take a look at those comparisons.

Travers WIN - $18.90…2018 Meet Win $11.20
Travers EXACTA - $163.60…2018 Meet Exacta $73.98
Travers TRIFECTA - $1,616.00…2018 Meet Trifecta $405.19
Travers SUPERFECTA - $11,979.00…2018 Meet Superfecta $2,329.10

If those numbers don’t get your juices flowing I don’t know what will. What they tell me is that if you have bet as many as even one race at Saratoga in order to get the average payoffs the entire meet provides…why wouldn’t you go after the kind of TRADITIONAL BOXCAR PAYOFFS THE TRAVERS PROVIDES?

And given my 4 decade record of winning why wouldn’t you follow my advice?


Face It! The Travers Stakes Saturday At Saratoga
Has Been A Bettor's Bonanza For The Last 10 Years…

(Check All The Winning Info Here)


Many years the buzz is in on one or two front runners in the Travers Stakes.

Last year, however, the race was wide open. First off the winners of the Kentucky Derby (Always Dreaming), the winner of the Preakness (Cloud Computing) and the winner of the Belmont Stakes (Tapwrit) were each in the twelve colt field.

Also in the field were the last out winners of the Los Alamitos Derby (West Coast), the Tangelo Stakes at Gulfstream (Gunnevera), the Indiana Derby (Irap) and the Haskell Stakes (Girvin.)

It came as no surprise that seven of the twelve runners went off at between 3.85-1 and 7.00-1 and yet not a single one of the three Triple Crown winners made it into the Trifecta.

West Coast – WIN $14.20 (My 5th Winner in the last 7 years)…Gunnevera – 2nd Exacta $357.50…Irap – 3rd Trifecta $2,245…Tapwrit – 4th Superfecta $14,329.00

I know I’m throwing a lot of numbers at you, but isn’t this what a horse player dreams of cashing?

How about 2016? Off his Haskell Stakes and Preakness Stakes wins Exaggerator was sent off as the 2.55-1 favorite and finished eleventh while an unknown (at that point) runner by the name of Arrogate exited an allowance/optional claimer at Del Mar and not only won by 13 ½ lengths in track record time and returned $25.40, but keyed a $2,028.00 trifecta and $20,912.00 Superfecta.

And of course there was 2015 when Triple Crown and Haskell Stakes winner American Pharoah was upset by $34.00 longshot Keen Ice.

And of course this year the elephant in the room is the retirement due to injury of Triple Crown winner Justify.

I guess you get the point so let’s take a quick look at the 11 runners set to go postward in tomorrow’s Travers Stakes (1 ¼ Miles - $1,250,000 Purse.)

TRIGGER WARNING (30-1) – Ambitious entry for the son of Candy Ride but why not. The colt showed early interest in both the Ohio Derby and Indiana Derby in his last pair and finished a length beaten third in former and head beaten second in the latter. Will likely be a part of the pace and take them as far as he goes.

WONDER GADOT (5-1) – The multiple graded stakes winner ships in from Canada for trainer Mark Casse and seeks to be the first filly since 1915 to win the Travers. She easily handled the boys in her last two, the 400K Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie and the Group 1 Queen Plate at Woodbine, the first two legs of that nation’s Triple Crown. Her versatility might be her strongest attribute as she came from 8th in the Queen’s Plate and went wire-to-wire in the Prince of Wales.

GRONKOWSKI (4-1) – Speaking of buzz, this European developed runner was prepped early on for the Kentucky Derby but had setbacks which kept him off the track from early March until the Belmont Stakes. Now in the barn of Chad Brown, the son of Lonhro came roaring from far back to get second to Triple Crown winner Justify. Brown has been patient but the colt has worked every 6-8 days over the Saratoga track since July 21 and appears in fine form. Whether he does or does not live up to the buzz and the 4-1 morning line prediction remains to be seen.

BRAVAZO (12-1) – If hickory scores you any points then this Wayne Lukas trained son of Awesome Again gets some bonus ones. He is the only colt left who ran in all three Triple Crown races. He was not disgraced in any of him. He returned to finish second to ML Travers favorite Good Magic in the recent Haskell Stakes. You can do a lot worse than a runner who tries every time and one of the meet’s hottest riders, Luis Saez, remains in the irons.

VINO ROSSO (10-1) – The Todd Pletcher trained son of Curlin is tough to get a handle on. The colt has shown flashes and then shown less than full interest. He has not come close in three races since winning the Wood Memorial in his final Kentucky Derby prep though he did rally for third in the recent Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes. Based on his past performances he will need a sharp contested pace if he is to finally break through or get a top 3 piece. One thing in his favor is that John Velazquez has yet to give up on him.

MEISTERMIND (30-1) – If the son of Bodemeister were not trained by Steve Asmussen he would be easy to ignore. It took the colt 5 tries to break his maiden and in his first try vs winners was fifth in an entry level allowance last out. However, Asmussen notwithstanding, he is tough to see.

KING ZACHARY (15-1) – It isn’t often that a runner who was beaten 3 lengths and fourth in the Indiana Derby in his final prep for the Travers and has never raced longer than a mile and a sixteenth affords a second look. But he is a son of Curlin and many of that sire’s progeny have taken time to develop. He is also trained by Dale Romans, was a winner of the Matt Winn Stakes at CD prior to the Indiana Derby and in the latter had all kinds of traffic problems. Add in his absolutely blistering works here at the Spa since arriving in mid-July and, like I said, causes me a second look.

MENDELSSOHN (12-1) – Is he the fox in the hen house? Off his incredible UAE Derby performance he was sent off as the third favorite behind Justify and the inexplicably heavily bet My Boy Jack in the Kentucky Derby. The race was a disaster. He was off the track until July 7 when he prompted the pace and retired to third in the Grade 3 Dwyer at Belmont. The colt was taken back to Europe by Aiden O’Brien after the Dwyer, but here he is again with champion ride Ryan Moore making the trip. All he does is add to the intrigue.

GOOD MAGIC (2-1) – One of them had to be the ML favorite, though I wonder if his 2-1 prediction with the next two being 4-1 and 5-1 isn’t a bit of a discrepancy. Nonetheless, his re-emergence with his Haskell win last out and two sharp breezes here since are indicative of the form that saw him run a strong second in the Kentucky Derby and perhaps as strong a race when trapped on the inside in the Preakness. Yes he will be the favorite. Yes, everything trainer Chad Brown sends out is fit. But I haven’t been talking Travers results throughout just to hear my voice so in the dual meaning of the phrase…he is the horse to beat.

TENFOLD (8-1) – Another son of the late developing Curlin and a Steve Asmussen trainee. Asmussen has been patient with the colt and after his big step up in the Preakness when third in the blanket finish in which the top four were separated by one length, he took a brief break, enough to get over the bounce possibility that likely caught up to him in the Belmont Stakes and in workmanlike fashion won the important local Jim Dandy prep in his last. Would not be a surprise.

CATHOLIC BOY (8-1) – Another that adds intrigue and causes us to handicap a bit outside the box. Unknown as of yet but sharp young trainer Jonathon Thomas switches the son of More Than Ready from the Turf where he was a last out winner of the Grade 1 Belmont Derby at the Travers distance of a mile and a quarter and the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge prior to that. In those grass races he went wire-to-wire, which might be difficult from this post. But in his previous dirt tries he stalked the pace in winning the Grade 2 Remsen, finishing second in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis and fourth in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. A solid runner who could be any kind.

There you have it. Another capable group of late season emerging 3-year olds that should mean we once again will get all the value we want.

Don’t hesitate to join me.

Check Out My Travers Information And What I Plan On Doing With The Additional 6 Undercard Stakes Races Right Here.





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